The 11 Top Gallery Shows of 2014
By Artsy Editors
Dec 17, 2014 6:22 pm

Last summer iconic artist duo Gilbert & George presented bold black, white, and red photomontages that reflect their ongoing interest in universal, accessible art and reflect a dark vision of the present—sinister, globalized, and technology-centered. True to form, the artists themselves figure prominently in the works, as do religious imagery and whippets—silver bomb-like canisters of nitrous oxide, the remnants of a trendy recreational stimulant that they find discarded around their East London neighborhood.


Chris Succo, the 35-year-old, Düsseldorf-based artist who gained steam in 2014 as a collector favorite, presented new black and white works at DUVE Berlin over the fall. The show featured a dynamic pairing of divergent yet complementary new series: his white, thickly layered oil and lacquer handwriting paintings intermingled with untitled silkscreen paintings, featuring collaged female body parts printed in grayscale ink on linen canvas.


Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado presented two-decades worth of black-and-white photographs depicting his sublime journeys in his debut solo gallery exhibition in Singapore at Sundaram Tagore’s gallery at Gillman Barracks—the show is now on view in Hong Kong. From a remote Brazilian rainforest to majestic ice formations in Antarctica to sacred sites in Indonesia, his photographs explore natural and man-made worlds alike, and intersections of the two.


A set of 12 large-scale photographs comprised Ryan McGinley’s first solo show in China this year, and his second with Galerie Perrotin. The youthful nudes set before vibrant Americana landscapes are the result of the photographer’s annual summer road trip, and strike a balance between careful planning, natural beauty, and the model’s spontaneity.


David LaChapelle’s fluorescent photographic investigations into the oil industry filled Paul Kasmin last January. “LAND SCAPE” debuted new works from two series, “Refineries” and “Gas Stations,” which were created from photographing scale models of filling stations and power plants that were constructed by hand from cardboard and disposable materials.


6. “Mana Exposition” at Mana Contemporary, Jersey City

To inaugurate a new 50,000 square-foot space in their Jersey City art complex, Mana Contemporary invited artist Ray Smith to curate the first of a series of exhibitions for and by artists. With exhibition design by Richard Meier, and works by big name artists including Ai Weiwei and Alex Katz, comingled with a selection of emerging and lesser-known artists, including many with studios at Mana.


5. “Sterling Ruby: VIVIDS” at Gagosian Gallery, Hong Kong

Inspired by his smoggy hometown, L.A.-based painter and sculptor Sterling Ruby created a new series of spray paintings—executed in candy pinks, greys, and highlights of emerald green—to line the stark white walls of Gagosian’s Hong Kong space. The show coincided with four other Asian exhibitions featuring the artist this summer and fall.


4. “Joan Mitchell: Trees” at Cheim & Read, New York

Joan Mitchell, leading lady of the New York School, set herself apart from fellow Abstract Expressionists by mining inspiration from nature. At Cheim & Read over the summer her tree paintings sprouted up all over the gallery, ranging from wall-sized works to small thoughtful studies.


Delving back into his interest in narcotics, this fall Damien Hirst debuted new prints and edition sculptures replicating pastel-colored prescriptions pills. In addition to giant pills and prescription bottle sculptures the show featured a wall of printed pills, collectively titled The Cure.


African contemporary artist El Anatsui and his intricate, beautiful tapestries—made from aluminum bottle tops and copper wire—inaugurated Axel Vervoordt’s new Hong Kong space in May. The Antwerp-based gallery commissioned three new works for the show—in each one a hand form has been woven into the rich, elaborate texture—which came in the wake of his monumental exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum.


At Soho’s Suzanne Geiss last winter, large-scale photographs of a playful young Basquiat lined the walls—the works of his former girlfriend Paige Powell. A tribute to the late artist and his short life, Powell’s exhibition gave viewers a surreal, circa 1983 glimpse into her Upper West Side apartment—and her intimate relationship with Basquiat.

Casey Lesser is an Editor at Artsy.